White wins one from EPA

Score one for the Mayor.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to Mayor Bill White’s request to overhaul its methods for estimating emissions from large refineries and chemical plants, a move that could reveal higher pollution levels.

In response to White, the federal agency acknowledged flaws in its formulas for calculating pollution levels, leading to unreliable data for decision-making.

The new estimates would for the first time include emissions of toxic gases and other pollutants during startups, shutdowns and equipment malfunctions, according to the EPA’s letter to the mayor.

The agency didn’t give White everything he wanted. Among requests it declined were a requirement that certain industrial sites verify the accuracy of their emissions with emerging laser technology and with fence-line monitors.

Still, environmentalists, public health advocates and some air-quality officials hailed the agency’s response, predicting that the promised revisions will reveal more emissions from refineries and chemical plants than previously reported.

“It will show the truth,” said Elena Marks, director of health and environmental policy for White

I don’t know how much effect this will have in practice. I think the industry flack who said that the city already has a wide array of accurate sensors has a point. Still, it’s nice to have the feds acknowledge the need for more accurate measurements – if nothing else, it’ll make it harder to make claims based on faulty data. And with the EPA taking more far-reaching action on greenhouse gases and climate change, I’d say it’s been a good week for the environment.

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